By Marouane Zakhir,
University of Soultan Moulay Slimane, Morocco
When we talk about the history of translation, we should think of the theories and names that emerged at its different periods. In fact, each era is characterized by specific changes in translation history, but these changes differ from one place to another. For example, thedevelopments of translation in the western world are not the same as those in the Arab world, as each nation knew particular incidents that led to the birth of particular theories. So, what are the main changes that marked translation history in both the West and the Arab world?
a. Translation in the western world
For centuries, people believed in the relation between translation and the story of thetower of Babel in the Book of Genesis. According to the Bible, the descendants of Noah decided, after the great flood, to settle down in a plain in the land of Shinar. There, they committed a great sin. Instead of setting up a society that fits God's will, they decided to challenge His authority and build a tower that could reach Heaven. However, this plan was not completed, as God, recognizingtheir wish, regained control over them through a linguistic stratagem. He caused them to speak different languages so as not to understand each other. Then, he scattered them all over the earth. After that incident, the number of languages increased through diversion, and people started to look for ways to communicate, hence the birth of translation (Abdessalam Benabdelali, 2006) (1).
Actually, withthe birth of translation studies and the increase of research in the domain, people started to get away from this story of Babel, and they began to look for specific dates and figures that mark the periods of translation history. Researchers mention that writings on translation go back to the Romans. Eric Jacobson claims that translating is a Roman invention (see McGuire: 1980) (2). Cicero andHorace (first century BC) were the first theorists who distinguished between word-for-word translation and sense-for-sense translation. Their comments on translation practice influenced the following generations of translation up to the twentieth century.
Another period that knew a changing step in translation development was marked by St Jerome (fourth century CE). "His approach to translating theGreek Septuagint Bible into Latin would affect later translations of the scriptures." (Munday, 2001) (3)
Later on, the translation of the Bible remained subject to many conflicts between western theories and ideologies of translation for more than a thousand years.
Moreover, these conflicts on Bible translation were intensified with the coming of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, when"translation came to be used as a weapon in both dogmatic and political conflicts as nation states began to emerge and the centralization of the Church started to weaken evidence in linguistic terms by the decline of Latin as a universal language." (McGuire, 1980) (4)
Needless to say that the invention of printing techniques in the fifteenth century developed the field of translation and helped in theappearance of early theorists. For instance, Etienne Dolet (1915-46), whose heretic mistranslation of one of Plato's dialogues, the phrase "rien du tout" (nothing at all) that showed his disbelief in immortality, led to his execution.
The seventeenth century knew the birth of many influential theorists such as Sir John Denhom (1615-69), Abraham Cowley (1618-67), John Dryden (1631-1700), who wasfamous for his distinction between three types of translation; metaphrase, paraphrase and imitation, and Alexander Pope (1688-1744).
In the eighteenth century, the translator was compared to an artist with a moral duty both to the work of the original author and to the receiver. Moreover, with the enhancement of new theories and volumes on translation process, the study of translation started to...